Pepper is Sexy

       In the movie version of my life, when asked which way I prefer my pepper served, my James Bond-ish kind of answer isn’t the “shaken not stirred” Sean Connery quip but rather the cracked not ground bon mot. Alas, Hollywood hasn’t been knocking on my door and I’ll have to take my over the top spice fantasies down a notch or two.

I am not a food snob, but, if the only pepper you’ve ever used is the pre ground stuff your taste buds will thank you once they’ve tried the freshly ground stuff.  The outer shell of the peppercorn seals in the pungent bite of its flavor.  Freshly grinding your peppercorn cracks the outer shell and releases the flavor. Once the peppercorn is ground the sharpness of its bite starts to decay within an hour or two. So, if you’re going to be seasoning a dish with freshly ground pepper, wait until the last possible moment to add it.

Pepper comes from the berries of the Piper nigrum plant. Black, red, white and green peppercorns are actually the same fruit; they’re just harvested at different points in the ripening process and processed differently. The most commonly used pepper in the US is the black peppercorn. Black peppercorns are picked when they are just about to turn red. They are dried (they shrivel up and become dark) and either sold whole or ground. Green peppercorns are picked while still unripe and green. White peppercorns are picked when the berry is ripe and then soaked in a brine to remove the dark outer shell. Pink peppercorns, on the other hand are not actually peppers but the taste is close enough that they are lumped into the pepper category.

So bottom line, some recipes call for cracking pepper, others call for grinding, which is better? The answer is neither is better, it’s a matter of taste. Grinding produces a finer powdery consistency and cracking is a coarser consistency. So much depends on what you’re making and on what type of grinder you’re using. In the world of fresh ground pepper the following semi accurate equivalents should give you approximate measurements:

 

1/8 teaspoon = 4 to 5 rotations
1/4 teaspoon = 8 to 10 rotations
1/2 teaspoon = 19 to 22 rotations
1 teaspoon = 35 to 40 rotations

CRACKED PEPPER DRESSING

You can use low or no fat mayonnaise and sour cream if you’re looking for a lower calorie version.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons milk
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoon ground cracked pepper
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion salt

In a bowl combine all the ingredients and mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour for the flavors to combine. Makes approx 1 cup.

PEPPER BURGERS

2 pounds ground beef
1 to 2 tablespoons minced onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground pepper  
2 teaspoons soy sauce

6 Kaiser rolls

lettuce, tomato, pickles (optional)

In a bowl combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, pepper and soy sauce. Make 6 patties. Heat a grill pan and fry the patties or 6 to 7 minutes per side or until your desired level of cooking. Serve immediately on Kaiser rolls with tomato, lettuce and pickles. Makes 6 patties

PEPPERED MIXED NUTS

1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg white
3 cups mixed almonds, cashews, and pecans

Preheat oven to 250. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set it aside.  In a bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  In another bowl whisk the egg white until it’s foamy.  Add the nuts into the egg white mixture and toss to coat well.  Add the spice mixture to the nuts and toss to coat. Spread the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool slightly and break any clumps apart.  Cool completely and store in airtight container. Makes 3 cups.

PEPPERED CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1-1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound ground chicken

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 can (5 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/2 cup chopped green onions

12 Bibb or leaf lettuce

Sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

In a bowl combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, oil, onion, brown sugar, garlic, five spice powder, pepper and salt in large bowl. Add the chicken to the sauce. Stir in mushrooms and water chestnuts. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until ready to cook.

Heat large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add the chicken mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked throughout. Remove the mixture from the heat. Top with green onions. Serve in a lettuce leaf with a drizzle of the Sweet Sauce.

Sweet Sauce
In a bowl combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Modified from spiceisland.com

LEMON PEPPER VEGETABLE PASTA

1/2 lb uncooked bow tie pasta
1/4 cup olive  oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1inch pieces

8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 can (15 oz size) garbanzo beans rinsed and drained
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. In a large skillet heat the oil. Saute the bell pepper, mushrooms, asparagus, lemon peel, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are warm but still crisp. Stir in the lemon juice, green onions and beans into the vegetable mixture. Cook until beans are hot. Add pasta; toss and season with pepper to taste. Serves 4.
PEPPER AND GARLIC SHRIMP SALAD
3 cups romaine lettuce, shredded
25 to 30 large cooked and peeled shrimp
2 large avocados
2 large seeded and diced tomatoes
3 green onions, chopped

1 red pepper diced
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
salt

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

White Wine Vinaigrette
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Season the shrimp with the pepper and salt, and allow to sit for a few minutes. Prepare the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients and whisking vigorously. Rinse the lettuce and dry in a salad spinner. Place an equal amount of lettuce on a couple of large dinner plates. Slice the avocado and arrange it on each plate, then toss in the tomatoes. Add the chopped green onions, then set the plates aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and carefully cook for about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until they are completely pink and have begun to curl. Serve on individual plates or in a salad bowl. Serves 6

Submitted by Katie Karston Detroit MI modified from sunset.com

PEPPERED CHICKEN WITH VODKA

I have no idea where I got this recipe but we love it at our house. It’s simple and delicious and when at a loss as to what to make this is the recipe that most often comes to mind.

1 large whole chicken, cut up

salt and fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin

1 bunch fresh thyme

 (1/3 cup) pepper vodka (easy to find)

Preheat the oven to 450. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive in a Dutch oven. Sear the chicken in the olive oil, When browned but not cooked throughout, pour the pepper vodka over the top of the chicken and light it (yes, light it). When the alcohol is all burned off add the onion, carrot and thyme, stir to coat, and place in the oven. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked. Serves 4

Modified from Cooking With Booze by George Bone

PEPPERED SALMON

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

6 to 8 salmon fillets

1/3 cup coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In resealable plastic bag combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Place salmon in the marinade, shake to coat, refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl combine the pepper and breadcrumbs. Place pepper mixture on a flat plate. Remove salmon from marinade (don’t dry it off) and press top of each fillet into the pepper. Place the salmon, skin side down on the on the oil. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until firm to touch but not dry. Serves 6 to 8.

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